A budding rivalry between two of the top drivers in the CARS Late Model Stock Tour reached a boiling point Saturday night at Ace Speedway (NC), as series champions Josh Berry and Bobby McCarty were involved in a pair of incidents which took them both out of contention for a victory. On Monday, both drivers appeared on Speed51’s “The Bullring” to discuss their side of the Saturday’s race.
The first incident between the two drivers took place on lap 80 of the 125-lap event. While battling for the lead, McCarty and Berry made contact entering turn three, which resulted in Berry spinning into the outside wall.
Damage suffered from that incident prevented Berry from rejoining the race to stay on the lead lap, but he did come back to the track several laps down. With five laps remaining, McCarty spun from the lead after retaliatory contact with Berry on the backstretch, dashing his shot at victory.
McCarty finished 18th in the final running order, while Berry was disqualified from the event by CARS Tour officials for his actions.
Both drivers shared differing viewpoints of the initial contact during Monday’s program. McCarty felt it was hard racing, while Berry believed he had been chased up the race track.
“We had the restart and went off into one and two, and I got crowded a little bit and it hurt my drive off the corner,” said McCarty. “When I went into three and four, I opened my arc a little bit so I could get straighter when I went into the throttle. I mean, he was trying to pinch. It was nothing intentional. We hit tires, it was two drivers going for the same real estate going into three.
“I’m the leader. I’ve got my nose out front. It’s my decision when I get into the corner. There’s only so much I can do.”
While McCarty felt they were battling for the same real estate, Berry believed his chance to battle for the lead never came to pass.
“We had driven from 13th to second, and it was going to be a race between me and him,” said Berry. “He decided to get rid of me.
“Ace is a track that is notorious about being on the bottom. He had a very good car that was running on the bottom except for the lap that I was outside of him. That’s his move, that’s what he does.”
After returning to the track several laps down, Berry waited on McCarty to pass by before making contact with him, which resulted in McCarty spinning into the inside retaining wall.
Berry showed no remorse for his actions on Saturday night, roughly 48 hours later.
“No, not at all. My only regret is that I didn’t get to race with Bobby,” said Berry. “Racing is about choices. You make choices when you drive. Sometimes when you drive, you create outcomes that don’t work out for you.
“There were a lot of different scenarios that I thought of. Number one, I wasn’t going to try to destroy him. I was going to spin him out. He got the wall a little bit, but I have too much respect for [Nelson Motorsports] and they have good race cars.”
McCarty expected some retaliation or confrontation from Berry, but did not expect Berry to spin him from the lead. McCarty noted that he would have much preferred Berry to address him face-to-face over the earlier incident, rather than damaging both of their race cars.
“I thought he was going to block me. I thought he was going to make it really hard for me to pass him. I never would have thought that would happen.
“I’ve been racing for 22 years and I’ve never waited on anybody. That’s not the right way to do things. The way I was raised, if we have a problem, we’re not going to settle it with race cars, we’re going to settle it face-to-face. I’m not going to retaliate with race cars, especially with our teams, we’ve probably got 15 people that work on these things.”
While Saturday’s incident is the most notable between the two competitors, they have battled toe-to-toe numerous times over the past two seasons. McCarty has won the last two CARS Late Model Stock Tour championships, with last year’s title decided by just one point over Berry. The two drivers also have six wins each in the series during that span.
McCarty noted several clashes between the drivers throughout the 2019 season, including during last year’s race at Ace Speedway, as well as a CARS Tour event at Dominion Speedway (VA) and in the ValleyStar Credit Union 300 at Martinsville Speedway (VA).
Before Saturday’s incident, the most notable conflict between the two came during a CARS Tour event at Motor Mile Speedway, which saw McCarty take the win after contact with Berry on a green-white-checkered restart.
“I can tell him I’m sorry until I’m blue in the face,” said McCarty regarding the Motor Mile event. “It was a green-white-checkered, I was trying to win the race. I wasn’t trying to intentionally wreck nobody, but I wasn’t going to let the man have the win. I’m trying to win it.”
“There’s been a couple of incidents where I’ve been on the receiving end,” said Berry. “Last year was a great year for us, but we were in a well-documented points battle that we ended up losing by one point. There’s lots of ways you can look at things that happened over the course of that year. I’m not going to do that this year. That’s just how it is. I’m not going to deal with it.”
While the incident is fresh in everyone’s mind, it will undoubtedly bring extra attention to the series’ next event, less than a week away at Hickory Motor Speedway. Both Berry and McCarty downplayed the possibility of further escalation at that event.
“I was looking forward to having the opportunity to race with him Saturday night,” said Berry. “I don’t really see anything changing. I’m sure it’s going to be a week full of people saying everybody’s going to junk each other and stuff like that. I’m just going to prepare to race like I do normally, if I’m allowed. If I’m not, then we’ll cross that bridge when we get there.”
Whether Berry is part of Saturday’s 150-lap Late Model Stock feature, McCarty will go to the track focused on bringing home a checkered flag.
“In my opinion, I’m going to win races. I’m not going to Hickory or wherever we go next focusing on that 88 car. I’m going to the track focusing on the 22 car. They can do what they feel they need to do, but what I feel I need to do is win races.”
While the CARS Tour will return to action Saturday night at Hickory, it is possible Berry will not be part of the event. In the past, the CARS Tour has taken a hard stance when it comes to disciplining competitors for conduct. Jake Crum (South Boston, 2017), Brandon Setzer (Hickory, 2018), and Bubba Pollard (Hickory, 2019) all received five-race suspensions from the CARS Tour for involvements in post-race physical altercations with competitors.
“They said they would let us know Tuesday on any sort of penalties,” said Berry on the possibility of further discipline. “Whatever they decide to do, I’m going to understand. It’s their series we are racing in, and we choose to race in that series. If they feel like they have to suspend me or anything like that to prove a point, I’ll accept it and move on.”
Fans who missed Monday morning’s episode of “The Bullring” can click here to watch an on-demand replay of the episode and see Berry’s and McCarty’s full interviews while also hearing from other notables around the short track racing world from the past weekend.
-Story by: Zach Evans, Speed51 Content Supervisor – Twitter: @ztevans
-Photo Credit: Speed51 Photo